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Saratoga Springs Police Chief Responds To Criticism Following Report

Saratoga Police Chief Greg Veitch
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch (file photo)

The Chief of the Saratoga Springs Police Department has released his first public statement following a report that the city did not conduct an investigation into potential police misconduct following a late night foot chase in 2013 that eventually led to death of a Malta man.

On Labor Day Weekend 2013, Malta resident Darryl Mount Jr. led Saratoga Springs police on the chase in downtown Saratoga Springs.

Mount reportedly ran from Caroline Street to a nearby alley. Police said he was discovered at the bottom of a 19-foot scaffold with serious injuries. Mount’s family and friends alleged police brutality.

Mount was left in coma after the incident. He died the following May at age 22 from his injuries.

There were calls for an investigation into the incident, including potential police misconduct.

A report published in the Times Union Sunday by former longtime Saratogian newspaper editor Barb Lombardo alleges city police chief Greg Veitch misled the public about the nature of an investigation into the incident.

Lombardo recounted to WAMC a 2013 email exchange between the Saratogian and Chief Veitch, saying the paper was led to believe that an investigation into potential misconduct was underway.

“The wording in his email led us and others in the media to believe that they were in fact looking into allegations of misconduct. They might have been looking into the incident, but they did not ever look into it from the point-of-view of whether there had been misconduct,” said Lombardo.

Responding to the email from a Saratogian reporter, Veitch wrote, in part:

“Investigation into the allegation of misconduct on the part of the police officers involved is an internal investigation.”

Mount’s family sued the city over the incident. Lombardo’s report revealed that according to court records from May 2017, Veitch testified he misled a reporter. He stated:

“If she is asking me to release something that I am not going to release, I am giving her a reason that may or may not be true so she doesn’t get access to the thing we don’t want to release.”

In 2013, Veitch told WAMC there was no evidence that police acted improperly.

"There's no evidence that this is a case of police brutality at all," said Veitch. "And I've made this statement before and I'll say it again: anyone who says that they saw an officer abusing Mr. Mount during this incident, I welcome them to come forward and I will personally take their statement”.

In June 2014, Veitch and then-Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen released photos from the crime scene. At the time, they would not release video showing Mount allegedly shoving his girlfriend, citing the sensitivity of a domestic violence situation. 

On Friday morning, Veitch released a lengthy statement on Facebook. He said after five years, “there has not been one piece of evidence, nor one witness that has come forward with anything that contradicts what the officers have said occurred on the night in question.”

Veitch also wrote that despite calls for investigations from other government agencies including the Attorney General, Saratoga County District Attorney’s office, and the FBI, such investigations were not undertaken by those agencies.

Many city officials have remained tight-lipped following the Times Union report.

Saratoga Springs county supervisor Tara Gaston called for an investigation. She told WAMC, “It's concerning if there were misstatements or inaccuracies passed along to the public and not immediately corrected."

City Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin, who took office in January, would not comment on the story. But just days before it was published, while responding to a resident at a city council meeting, Martin said he did not believe a citizen police review board was necessary.

Veitch said in his statement that as chief, in such situations, there are many things he must “balance.” He said, “The rights, privacy and dignity of victims, suspects, and officers, the public’s right to know, media inquiries and the potential for a social media frenzy, potential criminal charges and possible civil litigation all have to be balanced in the minutes, hours and days after an event like this.”

Veitch declined an interview request from WAMC.

In his statement, Veitch disputes the criticism he has faced in recent days while arguing that his motivations in 2013 were pure.

Veitch wrote he will remain on the job and that the matter “belongs in court, not the editorial pages of a local newspaper.”

Veitch's entire statement is posted below:

In response to the recent articles in the Times Union I offer the following statement directly to the residents of Saratoga Springs.

There is a great deal that I would like to say regarding the article as it appears in the Sunday Times Union. However, I respect the legal process and will have to refrain from commenting on the things that may affect the pending litigation, something that not everyone apparently agrees with.

We are in the middle of a lawsuit and the comments, emails, exhibits and transcripts of deposition testimony have not been subjected to cross-examination and all of our counterpoints to the allegations made in the article have not been made public, nor should they be at this time. I hope it is clear that there is another side to the story that simply has not yet been told.

I will offer to the public that after five years now, there has been not one piece of evidence, nor one witness that has come forward with anything that contradicts what the officers have said occurred on the night in question. Despite the reporting of Caitlin Morris on September 23, 2013 which stated that there were witnesses to “the final stage of the pursuit” of Mr. Mount by the police officers, no such witness has ever come forward. Nothing in the Times Union article changes the fact that the officers did nothing wrong on the night of August 31, 2013.

As police chief there are many issues and concerns that I must balance in situations such as these. The rights, privacy and dignity of victims, suspects, and officers, the public’s right to know, media inquiries and the potential for a social media frenzy, potential criminal charges and possible civil litigation all have to be balanced in the minutes, hours and days after an event like this.

At the time I sent the email to the Saratogian reporter there was a single investigationon going by the Saratoga Springs Police Department that could have later been classified as “internal” but was not for reasons that will be explained below. Moreover, I was also attempting to respect the rights, privacy and dignity of the victim. If I misled a reporter, and as a consequence the public, by giving this reporter a misdirection and thereby shutting down a reporter’s request for information, in order to protect the victim and her identity, then I apologize to the public for causing a narrative that resulted in misleading them.

If my statements would later be considered by the public as being dishonest with them and reporters would choose to attack this particular aspect of a much larger story, I will bear the brunt of that criticism knowing that my sole intent was to safeguard the dignity and privacy of the victim for as long as I could possibly do so. The ramifications of that decision made on behalf of the victim, in this case and in every such case are exactly those that police officers and their chief must on occasion be willing to suffer.

Victims of relationship abuse can count on me and the Saratoga Springs Police Department to retain videos, photos, statements and reports documenting their abuse for as long as we legally can so that they are not re-victimized repeatedly by having their abuse publicly released, analyzed and commented on by media or individuals hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.

I hope that I have made up for the decision to shut down a reporter’s line of inquiry in the public’s mind by later releasing all documents that we possess, related to this incident including videos, officer reports and witness statements upon the death of Mr. Mount when criminal charges were no longer a possibility and prior to the filing of a civil lawsuit. Furthermore, my hope would be that the residents of Saratoga Springs judge not only me, but the officers of the department based on their everyday interactions with us, the efficiency and effectiveness with which we do our jobs, and not only on a single instance of my interactions with a reporter five years ago.

In regard to the question of whether or not I should have called for an independent investigation, I will note that within days of this incident, members of the public had publicly requested investigations by the State Attorney General’s Office and the FBI, both agencies that would not have needed or required a request from me or anyone else to begin an investigation. At any time, and in response to inquiries made bythen Commissioner Mathiesen, the District Attorney could have empaneled a grand jury, with or without my request. All chose not to, a point which was absolutely ignored in the recent reporting. As I have said publicly on many occasions, I and the members of the Saratoga Springs Police Department would cooperate with any duly appointed authority investigating our conduct. Furthermore, I would like to state that I take seriously my responsibility to instill discipline and accountability in the Saratoga Springs Police Department. I hope that my record in this regard is acceptable to the people of Saratoga Springs.

In regard to the emails cited in the article, they clearly were intended for the recipients and were not public or official statements. Anytime an investigation is ongoing, private communications between people involved may not reflect the entire situation and could easily be misconstrued years later, as is the case here.

Whether or not the investigation was classified as an “internal” investigation or not, all of the videos, police reports and witness statements were scrutinized, validated and ultimately released to the public and posted on our website. There are numerous public information releases that the Times Union has access to, and chose not to refer to in the recent article. These were released at the time and the public can use all of this publicly available information to determine whether or not a complete investigation was conducted. I stand by the work that was done by the members of the department and that the investigation was thorough and complete.

The confusion, unfortunately, about the “internal” investigation is that there was a single investigation that we chose to not classify as an official internal investigation for two reasons. First, there was no indication that anything the officers did violated policies or the law and therefore, nothing that would have required an internal compelling of statements from officers to clarify. And second, since that was the case, by not classifying the investigation as an “internal” investigation, we were able to release all documents, videos and statements when we did. Had we placed this investigation into an “internal” file, there would have been no opportunity to release everything we did to the public.

I do look forward to the day when this matter is fully resolved in a court of law and not needlessly used to forward the agenda of any particular person or organization. In the meantime, any member of the public can review the investigation by accessing everything that we have already released and they can ask themselves if a thorough investigation was conducted or not.

I will continue to serve the people of Saratoga Springs, for whom I have the utmost respect and love, to the best of my ability. I would ask that they consider all of the facts, our past performanceand our everyday conduct when judging us, rather than a series of articles written in the middle of a civil litigation that has not been fully adjudicated. This matter belongs in court, not the editorial pages of a local newspaper.

Thank you.
Gregory J. Veitch
Chief of Police

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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